Legal Hemp Spurring Nascent Industry in Alaska
The Denali Hemp Company in Talkeetna, Alaska is a family affair. Ember and Chris Haynes, along with their 18-year old daughter, have been making and selling hempseed-oil-based products like balms, oils, butters and soaps since 2014.
Denali Hemp grew out of their other business, Silverbear Sundries, a retail store in Willow where part of their Extreme Alaskan product line includes a handful of hempseed-oil items. Their customers loved those products so much that the Haynes’ decided to start a second business solely devoted to hemp.
The Haynes family got a boost on April 18 when Gov. Bill Walker signed Senate Bill 6 into law, which legalizes industrial hemp production separate from marijuana (0.3 THC threshold). It sets up regulations for hemp farming, and clarifying that adding hemp to food “does not create an adulterated food product.” The program should be up and running by the 2019 growing season.
Until now, they sourced their hemp from Colorado. They make and package their hemp products by hand and use organic and fair-trade ingredients, most grown on their own land. “We make products with hemp seed oil and we’re proud of it,” Ember tells Freedom Leaf. “Cannabis is a safe product and there’s no reason for it to be a Schedule I drug.”
Having some land dedicated to hemp would allow the Haynes’ to utilize all the benefits of the plant—its fibers as well as the seeds they in their products.
EMBER HAYNES: “There haven’t been many voices for hemp. I want to be sure there’s room for people like me and my husband to have a little plot. It’s not about big agriculture.”
While they’re mostly about hemp, the “heart of the business,” Ember explains, is Devil’s Club, a shrub in the ginseng family. “It’s a big leafy plant with treacherous thorns and a big red club. The root is medicinal, and it has these amazing properties for reducing inflammation.” It’s mixed with hemp in their salves and balms.
They also grow cottonwood, an excellent antimicrobial; the skin-healer calendula; and yarrow, which helps reduce inflammation. “We wildcraft as much as we can,” Ember says. “My mom grows some plants. We have local people that grow some of the herbs. And we also forage in the woods.”
The Haynes’ started off with a line of Extreme Alaskan products to combat the effects of the cold climate. “The herbs and plants I forage have been a necessary staple for Native Americans for generations,” she notes. “I’ve been taught by our elders that food should be medicine and our medicine our food. The strongest medicines are right out the front door.“
Alaska has had a confusing relationship with legal cannabis. In 1975, shortly after the state legislature decriminalized recreational use, the state Supreme Court legalized it in the decision Ravin v. State, ruling that the laws against personal possession and cultivation violated the constitutional right to privacy. That gave Alaskans the right to use marijuana at home.
In 2002, Alaskan voters approved a ballot initiative to recriminalize cannabis—but the state Court of Appeals ruled they couldn’t legally do that, citing the Ravin decision. In 2006, the legislature recriminalized cannabis anyway. Meanwhile, Alaskans voted in 1998 to legalize medical use. And in 2014, voters approved Measure 2, making Alaska the fourth state to legalize recreational marijuana.
During the long decriminalization vs. recriminalization debate, hemp was largely overlooked. Since the legal cannabis market began in 2015, Ember has noticed a difference in her customers. “People are a lot more comfortable talking about hemp and using more products,” she says. “These are really good introductory products for someone just becoming familiar with cannabis.”
Denali Hemp Products
Devil’s Club & Hemp
Salve for arthritic aches and pains; reduces inflammation.
$47 (4 oz.)
Denali Hemp for Pain
Includes hemp seed oil, Devil’s Club root, lavender oil, tea-tree oil, eucalyptus oil; for achy muscles and inflammation.
$29 (2 oz.)
Denali Hemp Beard Balm
A combo of hemp seed and coconut oils and shea butter; moisturizes and softens facial hair.
$20 (2 oz.)
Hemp & Calendula Balm
A mixture of hemp seed oil, olive oil, beeswax and calendula blossoms; moisturizes dry skin.
$20 (2 oz.)
Hemp Seed Oil & Shea Butter
Strictly hemp seed oil and shea butter.
$20 (2 oz.)
Hemp Seed Oil & Goat Milk Soap
Hemp seed and coconut oil, plus “hemp hearts” as an exfoliant, combined with goat milk, create this luxurious soap.
$8 (per bar)
Hemp Seed-Oil Lip Balm
Strictly made from hemp seed oil.
$8 (per piece)
Original Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed and olive oils infused with lavender, calendula and chamomile; use on wounds and irritated skin.
$25 (per container)
Next is a line of hempwear t-shirts and hoodies. Purchase hemp seed oil products here.
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